Supporting the Antiviolence Toll Free Number “Mai più Sola” for  Abused Women

Project location: ITALY
Project start date: September 2007 - Project end date: This project covers various years
Project number: 2007-02

[2011-45, 2013-007| 2014-031]

"Mai più sola" (Never ever alone) is a help-line for abused and mistreated women, established for the first time in 2007 by the non-profit association ACMID-DONNA, thanks to a grant awarded by the NANDO PERETTI FOUNDATION.

ACMID- DONNA Onlus (the Association of the Moroccan Community of Women in Italy) was created in 1997 at the initiative of Souad Sbai, well-known Moroccan-born journalist, women's rights advocate, and since 2007 also Member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, with the general goal to provide immigrant women in Italy with all the support needed in order to achieve a better social integration in the country. The association's priority is to disseminate updated information on the Italian legislation on immigration, so as to inform immigrant women of their civil and political rights. ACMID-Donna is also committed to fight illiteracy among immigrant women, and to support them in the difficult process of social and psychological integration.

Many are the problems that migrant women, particularly those coming from North and Sub-Saharan Africa, face as a result of the impact with new ways of life. Experience on the field has proved that many North African women who arrive in Italy have no friends, nor relatives they can rely on. Moreover, they are completely alone and badly informed on their rights and duties. They need aid and support on how to deal with the challenges of their new life.

The idea of the "Mai più Sola" project originated from the results of a 2007 survey on the abuses against Moroccan women living in Italy. From a sample of 2000 women, 70% of them was physically abused (68% at home). The majority of them kept it secret.

In light of this, a free of charge help-line to provide these women with legal advice and psychological and logistic assistance seemed like the best way to address their needs.

Differently from other similar anti-violence programmes, the staff of the "Mai più Sola" Call Center provides assistance in four languages (Italian, Arabic, French and English) and is constantly trained and informed on the legislation and the public policies on immigration of different countries (particularly of the North Africa and the Horn of Africa regions, as well as of Europe), being thus able to promptly and competently respond to every request for assistance.

"Mai più sola" reaches now, in 2012, its fifth year of operation. Over the years it has become the first port of call for Arab women and not, wishing to denounce violence against them, seeking information on legal procedures regarding their rights and asking for logistical and psychological assistance in their difficult search for self-determination, and autonomy.

Very soon after its inception, Souad and the "Mai più Sola" staff realized that the numerous requests for assistance were not coming only from immigrant women, but also, surprisingly, from Italian ones, reflecting thus the widespread and urgent need of institutional mechanisms of assistance.

Moreover, "Mai più Sola" has become the only point of reference for those women - and their daughters - at risk of female genital mutilation.

In 2006 the Italian Parliament approved one of the best laws for the prevention and punishment of this terrible traditional practice (performed on about 30 million girls every year). Despite the newly adopted Italian legislation envisioned the establishment of information centres and the launch of awareness campaigns aimed at bringing to a halt this underground phenomenon, none of this has been made so far.

In this context, the work of ACMID Donna with the "Mai più Sola" project clearly fills a void, providing not only legislative, but also legal and medical assistance, as well as protection for girls at risks of genital mutilations, thanks to close partnership with the police and the magistracy.

Despite the precious work and great devotion of the volunteers and the association's staff, ACMID Donna finds difficult to receive funds and assistance from Italian public institutions. ACMID, nevertheless, managed to obtain from the Municipality of Rome an office, which has allowed it to significantly cut down the expenses - an important result considering the high rent prices of a city like Rome.

The new office, which was entirely renovated with the Association's funds, includes a small but well-supplied multi-language library, where Italian language courses for immigrants and Arabic languages courses for Italians are regularly organized. Among the Italian people attending the courses are both partners of Arabic-speaking people and members of the police wishing to learn the rudiments of the Arabic language for professional reasons.

This project received further funding for the sixth year by the Nando Peretti Foundation, until September 2015.


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